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Randy Stewart talks with Springfield artist and gallery owner Jan Hyde, one of the founding members of the First Friday Art Walk.
RANDY: I'm talking today with Jan Hyde, Springfield artist and art gallery proprietor. We're discussing the First Friday Art Walk, which won the 2006 Ozzie Award from the Springfield Regional Arts Council for groups or organizations making outstanding contributions to promoting the arts in this area.
You talked about the boundaries and keeping it within walking distance. Now you have the Monarch Art Factory which is several blocks away from the main downtown area.
JAN HYDE: Yes. And there are more spaces that are opening that direction. And that is still within our boundary lines, because we go as far (west) as Grant on that side. And you know, basically, part of our focus has always been in support of the businesses downtown. And in terms of developing this "art district," we kind of feel that it's there. And so the boundary line basically is part of that focus on the center city. We did collaborate in May with Commercial Street, and we loved it-- we'll probably do it again. It'll be probably once a year. It was extremely successful. And we hope that they develop, if they choose to, and other districts around (Springfield), we hope that they will do the same thing, and develop their own Art Walk. We're real supportive of that.
RANDY: There are, of course, other galleries elsewhere in the city, and some of them, like Josh Mitchell and Waverly House, actually hold openings on that First Friday of the month--but they're not part of your organization.
JAN: Yes. Unfortunately, the further you are away from the center (city area) where people are walking, those venues have less attendance. The MSU Student Exhibition Center--
RANDY: That would be your easternmost--
JAN: Yes, it is, that's the (eastern) boundary line.
RANDY: Hammons Parkway.
JAN: Hammons Parkway. And they see a lot less of the traffic than people in the center of the city. It would be wonderful later, maybe, to have a trolley running from space to space. Then we could go a little further. You know, that's something that we need to look at in the future.
RANDY; So how many people these days show up for the Art Walk?
JAN: Over a thousand. There's been one gallery that did count once, and 1500 came into their gallery, and they were AWAY from the center. So it's hard to tell--but it's so impressive! And what's real interesting is, we have buses coming in from out of town with students, and a lot of people from not just the Springfield area but further away, which is kind of exciting. And I hear all the time from St. Louis and Kansas City and other communities--they have an awareness of our Art Walk.
RANDY: They also have their own monthly things like that.
JAN: Yes they do. However, our Art Walk is more impressive than St. Louis' right now! (chuckle) Kansas City, we're kind of in par with.
RANDY: And that really says a lot for the way center city and downtown have grown as a magnet for the arts.
JAN: Oh, yes. And you know, we're so excited about some of the plans for the future. We're really trying to encourage artists' studios opening up, and this is going to happen--it's already in the making. It would be so wonderful to have artists working in the center city--instead of just showing their work. We're also going to be adding a lot of workshops, working with the Arts Council, and getting various workshops for adults and children going on. So it'll be a center for the arts in every respect. And you know, we were very excited when we collaborated with Commercial Street in May. We had set up five tents--we placed an artist in each tent demonstrating their technique. We had a stone artist, we had clay artists working. People could walk up and ask them questions about what they were doing and how they work, and the artists so enjoyed it. So this is something that we will continue with. We did this in May, but we're also trying to encourage (the public), on a Thursday night before the Art Walk, to come to some of the artists' talks, where they can actually meet the artist and hear about their process. These shows are very costly to put together. And we do encourage people, if they can't make it to the Art Walk, these shows are up for usually a month until the next Art Walk. I've heard many times where people have said, "I missed the last Art Walk." Well, they can still come and still see the show, and not have to fight the crowds!
RANDY: The Art Walk for July (2007) is set for Friday July 6th from 6 to 10 pm at some 25 venues. For information call 864-7491 or visit www.springfieldarts.org.